Understanding the Community: Relationship and Ownership

As a social worker, I know that developing a relationship with the community has a central role while practicing development work. On every visit I make to the community, I come across many questions which are drawn from my day-to-day interactions with the people I am working. The whole idea of working with and for the community here is to reflect on a broader conception of a community organization. How relationships are nurtured through day-to-day involvement, interaction, and sharing of a sense of belonging to the place, matters greatly (Jodhka 2016: 7). Acceptance and acknowledgement are at first driven by the position both acquired and ascribed by us as social workers. A sense of relationship and building trust are defined around power relations, politics, and access to knowledge and information. As an AIF Clinton Fellow working in collaboration with the host organisation, which has a long history of grassroots engagement in the region, I’ve acquired an important learning which I intend to share here. In order to get more deeper into understanding how such relationships, rapport, and trust has been developed by the organisation, it’s important to share the lived experiences of both the community as well as the field staff working with the people.

My Host Organisation: Lokadrusti

As a grassroots organisation committed to creating an enabling environment for social change to empower the powerless and downtrodden, Lokadrusti is working directly and indirectly with various stakeholders. This includes working at the village, district, state, national as well as international level as part of their many collaborations. The organisation has initiated many successful intervention strategies, keeping in view the needs and requirement of the community and the target groups. Lokadrusti’s interventions center around children, women, youth, and members from socially and economically disadvantaged, distressed migration affected communities in Western Odisha.

Engagement with the Community

In all five blocks (Nuapada, Komna, Khariar, Boden and Sinapali) of Nuapada district, the seasonal migration is common among poor families. Taking note of the migration aspect, Lokadrusti has moved forward to work closely with the community to ensure access to educational opportunities for children coming from socially and  economically backward sections of the society. The impact of migration is not just limited to the adult members of the family, but it disrupts the lives of children as well, since many of them are accompanied by their families during tjhe move. And in such context, the overall development of child, his/her entitled rights provided by the Constitution, are beyond access. The vulnerability and sense of insecurity, lack of care and support, and inability to access the educational services becomes a prevalent part of their lives.

It is essential to ensure that all the children, regardless of whether they migrate with their parents or stays back in their villages, receive a minimum acceptable level of community or family based care in term of access to basic services with emphasis on the educational needs. The children coming from marginalized communities and underprivileged socio-economic backward families face the worst challenges. Most of the families work as daily laborers and practice seasonal migration in the neighboring states. In such distressed condition, where either both parents are illiterate or are working as daily laborers in agricultural activities, it becomes difficult for a child to get the support and guidance required for their studies at home.
Mr. Arif Mohammed, Block Coordinator (Lokadrusti) Participating in Gram Sabha at Khairani village, Gram Panchayat- Khairani, Block- Nuapada [Picture Courtesy: Niket Sagar]

“Iss Gaon mein migrate krne wale har parivar se hum personally milke baat karte hai.” “We speak personally to all the families who get migrated to this village”, says Mr. Arif Mohammed, a Lokadrusti staff member who has been working on various initiatives undertaken by organisation since 2011. He works closely with the community to address the educational needs and challenges of the children coming from migration families. Today he shares a good rapport and relationship with the people – this is visible on every field visit. The community acknowledges the efforts and action that have been defined over a time in collaboration with Lokadrusti.

As this example from the field shows, it is important to bring in the collective strategies and participatory approach designed in collaboration with the community. The emphasis to capacitate the community creates a platform to address the needs and challenges of the community. As a major stakeholder, the community and its institutions have an important part in addressing its issues and challenges, and be strengthened enough to access their rights.

References:

  • Government of Maharashtra & UNICEF (2017). “A Report on the Interstate Consultation on Migration and Children: From Practice to Policy”. Proceedings of the Synergies, Strategies and Systems for Migration-Affected Children Conference, Sept 20th, 2017. Mumbai: Government of Maharashtra and UNICEF, n.p. 
  • Jodhka, Surinder S. (2016). “Revisiting the Rural in 21st Century India”. Economic and Political Weekly 51 (26-27), p. 5-7. Accessed at: www.researchgate.net/publication/305324553_Revisiting_the_Rural_in_21st_Century_India.

Niket has completed his education from Jamia Millia Islamia. He has done his graduation from the Cluster Innovation Centre at the University of Delhi. In pursuance of his interest to work with marginalized communities, he completed Masters in Social Work from the University of Delhi. It is one of his goals to work for an equitable and accessible public education system. Niket has worked closely with rural communities under State Rural Livelihood Mission in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. He has undertaken academic research work with the forest and mountain communities of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. As an AIF Clinton Fellow, Niket served with Lokadrusti, an organisation working with the distressed migration population of western Odisha district under AIF's Learning and Migration Program (LAMP).

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2 thoughts on “Understanding the Community: Relationship and Ownership

  1. I love your approach to engagement and community development through participatory methodologies. Keep up the good work! You’re blogs are always insightful!

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